Like nearly every other Republican, including Sarah Palin, Oregon Republican Gordon Smith has distanced himself from indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. But just two years ago, Smith tapped Stevens for $10,000 in an effort to pay himself back for a $2.3 million loan he made to his campaign in 1996.
Stevens’ Northern Lights PAC wrote a pair of $5,000 checks to Smith in March 2005 and April 2006 -- joining lobbyists, energy companies and financial firms who contributed to the 1996 fund over the same period.
Smith, who earned a fortune running his family's frozen food business, has returned $10,000 from Stevens for the '08 campaign but has refused to give back $29,000 in other donations from the Alaska Republican, despite being lambasted by Democratic opponent Jeff Merkely.
Smith, a solid fundraiser who has managed to raise $10.1 million for this year’s race, has only be able to get donors to cough up $810,000 for the old loan. Instead of using his current campaign committee to pay off the debt to himself, as some senators have done, Smith has solicited contributions directly into his still-extant 1996 committee, pumping about $335,000 into the old account in recent years.
From a financial perspective it was a canny tactic – allowing Smith to effectively double his take from a handful of contributors, tapping them for 1996 and 2008 checks in a short time period.
Between Feb. 2005 and June 2006, for example, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America PAC gave Smith $8,000 for the 1996 fund, $6,000 for his 2008 race and another $10,000 to Smith’s pet PAC, Impact America.
Calls to a Smith spokeswoman weren’t immediately returned.